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Challenges of Legacy Networks

Most legacy architecture is nearly three decades old. Zeus Kerravala for Readwrite shares an excerpt from ZK Research’s white paper Computer Transitions Drive the Need for the New IP Network about the urgency of making the shift to a new IP network. According to the paper, there are several challenges the legacy support technician must overcome.

Challenges of Legacy Network Transition

The original network architectures were designed for a static form of IT. Yet an updated architecture can only be as fast as its slowest component, which is why the static network model can no longer hold in the era of increased agility. The network is often managed separately from other IT services, and is therefore traditionally given its own silo within the operational framework. Proprietary technologies present another barrier, since they constitute a form of vendor “lock-in” that keeps customers from accessing the best up-and-coming technologies.

A significant challenge lies with Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), a multi-tier network approach designed to protect against “routing loops and broadcast storms.” Unfortunately, it is this same approach that causes networks to become overbuilt, with an average network utilization of 30%. The “forklift upgrade” hardware-centric nature of legacy is another hurdle faced by support teams, not to mention that hardware-laden networks are expensive to maintain. Additionally, any changes to a traditional network will require the reconfiguration of devices on a “box-by-box” basis. This inefficient (though often necessary) process is largely flawed due to the human element; people are the #1 cause of network downtime. The solution is to seek automation.

Of course, because legacy infrastructure lacks programmable interfaces, performance optimization takes a hit whenever the network needs to accommodate traffic spikes due to voice, video, images, and / or applications. Lastly, legacy infrastructures present the challenge of being optimized for the applications of yesteryear. To be perfectly blunt, most old networks never counted on the popularity of cloud. As a result of the coming hybrid cloud wave, the old IP network is going to need a major makeover.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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